The “European political community” completes the process of joining the EU and is not an “alternative”, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday, following concerns from those in the waiting room of the EU that the idea could be used to exclude countries from the bloc. .
Speaking in front of the European Parliament on the occasion of Europe Day (9 May), French President Emmanuel Macron spear a new “European political community” that would allow Ukraine and other countries currently on the EU’s waiting list, such as those in the Western Balkans, to be more closely associated with the EU.
The idea, interpreted by commentators as an alternative to the moribund EU enlargement process, was met with skepticism by those aspiring to join the bloc.
“No alternative to EU membership for Ukraine would be acceptable,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted to the proposal last week.
Thursday, May 20, during a press conference in Paris with his Moldovan counterpart Maia Sandu, whose country also recently applied for EU membership, the French president tried to clarify his proposal.
He said it represented “a new framework for structuring cooperation, bringing together democratic European nations who adhere to our set of values and who may or may not aspire to join the European Union”.
Although it could be seen as a means of avoiding the integration of certain countries into the EU, the community would be a “compliment” and not an “alternative to the accession process”.
The EU’s drive to integrate the six Western Balkan states has continued at a glacial pace.
Montenegro is the only country to have opened all chapters of the negotiations, while Serbia has only opened 22 out of 35 policy areas, but actual progress remains negligible.
Kosovo has yet to gain candidate status, and hopes for a European future continue to dim as visa liberalization remains out of reach. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is also not an official candidate, tensions between local politicians continue to threaten stability and hamper progress.
Meanwhile, Brussels has failed to start negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, with the latter’s bid being blocked by neighboring Bulgaria over disagreements over shared history and language.
Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned earlier this week that a veto from Bulgaria is “a gift to Russia”.
Concerns also remain about the rule of law, asylum seekers and organized crime, particularly from Tirana.
According to Macron, his idea would allow “a stronger structuring of the political, energy and investment relationship with several countries that want it”.
Sandu hailed Macron’s proposal as the new European political community would “support and accelerate” Moldova’s EU accession process, which began when the application was submitted on March 3.
While Macron warned on May 9 that the accession of Ukraine and the other candidate countries could take “several years”, Sandu assured him that Moldova was ready “to make efforts, to work” and that it would not was not looking for a “shortcut” on the road to membership. Moldova has “a European future”, she said.
Alongside Sandu, Macron also expressed hope that “the next few weeks will allow us to give a clear response to Moldova, which deserves it, given its geopolitical, security and humanitarian situation”.
“The recent incidents [in Transnistria] show that a spread of the conflict cannot be ruled out,” Macron added.
Transnistria, an unrecognized strip of land backed by Moscow and bordering southwestern Ukraine, has seen several explosions in recent weeks, raising fears that Russia was behind the events.